A caravan of mostly young Valley Sikh-Americans are on their way to Texas today after launching a media campaign using the hashtag #ElPaso37 in protest of the detainment of 37 Punjabi refuges on hunger strike who are seeking political asylum. FM89 reporter Ezra David Romero reports from where the protest began in Fresno.
A group of 12 young Sikh-Americans met Friday morning for chai and cookies at a Sikh temple in northwest Fresno after prayer. They’re embarking on a three day, 1,100 mile campaign to El Paso, Texas, to send a message to Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
“We’re asking ICE to follow its own rules to make sure the detainees are treated humanely as well as the processing should occur in its own timeline and number two indefinite detainment should not be the policy," says Deep Singh the co-founder of Jakara Movement, the Fresno-based Sikh youth organization who put trip together.
“I don’t think we give enough credit to Fresno," Singh says. "There are a lot of interesting things happening here just below the surface. The idea to take action in the #ELPASO37 came by talking to Mexican- American groups, talking to Hmong groups in terms of seeing common issues in the different communities.”
The asylum-seekers have been detained for 10 months at the El Paso Detention and Processing Center, a stay the group says is too long.
“The Supreme Court in 2001 suggested that most detainees should be released in 6 months," Singh says. "Many of these are asylum seekers and currently they are being indefinitely detained. Whether they are going to be sent back or be released on parole – we just want that to take its course in a specified timeline.”
Over the last week the campaign has gained an international following on social media, hundreds if not thousands of tweets. Cayden Mak came up with the hashtag #ELPASO37. He’s with the Asian and Pacific Islanders online campaigning organization 18millionrising.org.
“I definitely feel like we are in a magical moment right now and not just in terms of #ELPASO37," Mak says. "We are clearly winning this. There’s a bigger story here about how the immigration story has galvanized people across racial and ethnic groups, across class and geographic boundaries to say that we don’t want people deported."
The students plan to hold seven events between Fresno and Arizona to garner national attention, before rallying at the El Paso Immigration and Customs Enforcement Processing center Sunday.
To follow the #ELPASO37 journey visit: elpaso37.org.